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1  Re: Herb Garden project in Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects by txweekendchef on: June 17, 2014 09:27:11 AM
Another bumper crop of basil this year in the herb garden  Grin

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2  Texas Pecan Pesto in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: June 17, 2014 09:22:05 AM
My basil in my herb garden is growing like weeds, time to make some pesto!

I actually use pecans instead of pine nuts (I have pecan trees in my backyard) and it turns out great  Smiley

I even go an extra step and smoke the pecans before it goes in the pesto. This gives the pesto a touch of smoke and a nice nutty pecan flavor.
If you do not have a smoker, roasting in the oven works too with pecans.

Here is what the pesto looks like when it is done. I like to hand-chop my pesto instead of using a food processor. Maybe its just me, but pesto out of a food processor has a baby-food light green look to it and has a one-note taste. When you hand-chop pesto, the basil turns a nice dark green and the small chunks of nuts, cheese and garlic create little flavor explosions in your mouth.

Here is my basil plants growing like weeds in my herb garden. If you are interested in herb gardens I did a post on mine in the Craftster forum here (it won a craftster's best of 2012):

Back to the pesto. Here is the basil, pecans, Parmesan cheese and garlic being hand chopped.

Here is the recipe:

Texas Pecan Pesto


2 to 3 cups of basil leaves (when pressed flat in measuring cup)

1 cup pecan halves

cup of shaved Parmesan cheese

3 to 4 cloves of garlic

to 1 cup of olive oil

Salt to taste


Smoke or roast pecans, if you have a smoker smoke pecans at a low temperature (180-200F) for an hour, then raise the temperature to 300F and roast for 20 minutes, turning the pecans once. If using the oven, preheat oven to 300F and roast pecans for 20 minutes, turning the pecans once.

Let pecans cool, then roughly chop (1/4 inch squares) and set aside.

Roughly chop garlic and Parmesan cheese, and then set aside.

Roughly chop basil leaves, and then add chopped pecans, garlic and Parmesan cheese and mix together on cutting board.

Finely chop basil mixture till it is almost minced (check picture in slide show above).

Place basil mixture into bowl and stir in olive oil a couple of tablespoons at a time until the mixture is just saturated with the oil. Salt to taste.

Pesto can keep for around two weeks in the refrigerator.

I wrote a little story about making the pesto and have some step-by-step pictures on my blog here:

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3  How to cook a frozen steak in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: April 23, 2014 09:19:19 AM
With beef prices up I have started buying steaks in bulk and freezing them when they are on sale.

The problem with that is having to defrost the steak before you can cook it. Turns out there is a way to cook a perfect medium rare steak without having to defrost the steak and it only takes an hour to fix. 

Modernist Cuisine author Nathan Myhrvold developed a simple technique were you first freeze your steak, sear it in a hot pan (or with a blowtorch), then bake in an oven at 200ºF for one hour. This gives you a steak that is seared on the outside, but is a perfect medium rare from edge-to-edge inside. 

Since my steaks were already frozen I decided to give it a try for my blog.

Since I have a blowtorch, I seared my steak with the torch, instead of searing it with a hot pan (that's just how I role Cheesy ). I also decided I would smoke my steak on my smoker at around 200ºF instead of using an oven.

It worked, the steaks turned out great with a perfect medium rare from edge-to-edge. Plus, this was really easy to do.

Here are some pics on how it turned out.

And here is a link to my blog post on this, it also includes steps on how to wrap your steaks for freezing.

Until beef prices go down, I think I will be fixing a lot of frozen steaks.  Smiley
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4  Christmas Rib Roast in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: December 24, 2013 09:20:27 AM
I lucked into a prime rib roast that a friend ordered by mistake. She thought she was buying the rib roast that was on sale, but asked the butcher for a 4 bone prime rib. She ended up with a 10 pound prime rib roast that came in right at $200. So she decided to have a dinner party and invited my wife and myself over. I volunteered to cook the roast, I mean, how many times do you get to play with a $200 piece of meat?

Here are a couple of tips in case you find yourself in the same situation.

Rib Roast Tips

Be sure to have a good meat thermometer! Rib roast are expensive, so you need to make sure you dont overcook your roast, pull at 125 to 130F for medium rare, 135 to 140F for medium.

Try to buy a choice or prime grade rib roast. A prime rib roast is best, but can be very expensive. I normally try to find a choice rib roast with lots of marbling.

How big a roast? The rule of thumb for rib roast is for each bone you can add two people, so a three bone rib roast feeds 6 people.

Here are some pics on how it turned out:

That is one expensive piece of meat!

I like to brown my meat with a blowtorch, feel free to use a hot pan Smiley

Roast resting.

Slicing the rib roast, juice was squirting out as I was cutting.

Here is a close-up of how juicy the roast was.

The prime rib roast was great! It better be for around $200. I am just glad I did not mess it up.

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5  Beer Brined Pork Roast in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: October 21, 2013 12:22:46 PM
Made a Beer Brined Pork Roast that turned out nice and juicy! The secret for juicy pork and chicken is brining.

Brining is a solution of salt and sugar in a liquid (in this case beer) that you soak your pork (or poultry) in for a minimum of 1 hour per pound. I normally brine pork chops or a broken down chicken for about three hours, pork roast or whole chicken overnight and a turkey for 24 hours. The brine will be partly absorbed (the meat actually gains weight), adding seasonings and moisture to the meat, even after cooking.

Using beer in the brine will add a nice flavor to the pork roast.
To beer brine a 3-pound pork roast you will need:

2 12-ounce bottles of beer (I like using a bock or ale)
cup kosher salt (or a 2 tablespoons of table or canning salt)
cup sugar
Resealable plastic bag large enough for pork roast

I also add these optional spices to the brine:

1 sprig fresh Rosemary
1 sprig fresh sage
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 tablespoon whole coriander
1 tablespoon whole mustard seed

To brine, place pork roast into resealable plastic bag; add sprigs of Rosemary and sage.

Mix all the remaining brining ingredients in a large bowl and stir with a whisk till the salt and sugar are dissolved.

Pour brine into plastic bag letting it cover the pork roast, then seal bag making sure to remove as much air from the bag before sealing.

Place bag in a bowl or pan to catch any liquid (if the bag springs a leak), then place into the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight.

Remove pork roast from brine and rinse off with cold water. Pat dry with paper towel, and put back into refrigerator on a pan or plate for 2 hours to air-dry.

Season and roast pork at 400F for 1 hour, then lower heat too 325F and continue roasting until the internal temperature reads 150F on a instant read (or meat) thermometer (about 30 minutes).

Here are some more pics.

More step-by-step pictures here.
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6  Grilled Freshwater Prawns in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: September 17, 2013 12:25:42 PM
There is a Freshwater shrimp farm around 30 miles up from Fort Worth in Wise County. They have 3 ponds that they harvest in September on three consecutive Saturdays.

I picked up a couple of pounds last Saturday and grilled them on sticks. They have a sweet, lobster taste and are a steal at $8 a pound.

Here is a couple of picks and a video I shot of the farm.

Video of shrimp farm

Here is how I grilled them.

Grilled Freshwater Prawns

    2 pounds fresh prawns (or large shrimp)
    1 cup peanut oil
    1 cup fresh chopped herbs (I used parsley, thyme, chives and rosemary from my garden)
    cup chopped garlic
    cup fine diced sweet red peppers
    Salt to taste
    Wood skewers

Cooking Directions

    Soak skewers for 15 minutes in water.
    Mix herbs, garlic and peppers in bowl with peanut oil.

    Rinse prawns in cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. De-vein prawns with shells on by cutting the top of the shells over the tail with a small knife making a shallow slit in the tail meat, then lift out the vain with the tip of the knife.

    Skewer prawns tail side first, then coat with herb/oil mixture and let marinade for 15 minutes.

    While prawns are marinating, pre-heat grill to high heat. Grill prawns on skewers for around 4 minutes then flip and grill another 4 minutes. Prawns are done when the shells turn from blue/gray to bright orange/red. Lightly salt prawns after grilling (while still in the shell), youre really just salting your fingertips.

These prawns were extremely tasty, heads and all! Eat the grilled prawns like crawfish, that is, suck the head and eat the tail.
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7  Re: Herb Garden project in Exterior Decorating / Yard Art / Gardening: Completed Projects by txweekendchef on: July 14, 2013 11:35:27 AM

Updated picture from this year. Basil is growing like weeds...
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8  Homemade Hot Sauce in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: July 14, 2013 11:16:42 AM
My pepper plants have been putting out a lot of peppers so I decided to make some homemade hot sauce!

I have both hot Apaches and a milder Pompeii peppers growing in my herb garden. The Apaches are small peppers that are a little hotter than Cayenne (and are from the same family). The Pompeii peppers is a larger sweet pepper, but I have noticed that mine have some mild heat to them when they turn red.

Apaches and Pompeii pepper from my garden.

First you need to roughly chop your peppers.

I also added some garlic and a shallot.

Making the hot sauce itself is actually pretty easy. You basically boil your chopped pepper mixture in vinegar and water with sugar and salt, then puree. There are some pretty strong pepper and vinegar fumes released when you boil the peppers, so make sure your stove area is well ventilated or fix this outside.

Then Push pepper mixture through a sieve to get rid of the seeds and skins, then bottle.

I used basically 3 cups of chopped peppers, 1/2 a cup of vinegar, 1 cup of water, a couple of tablespoons of sugar and a tablespoon of salt. I also added some garlic and a shallot.

This batch came out tasting very much like a very hot Sriracha sauce with the garlic and sugar flavors I added. Sort of what I was going for after making that Sriracha ketchup last week. Very tasty!

I have more step-by-step pictures on my blog here.

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9  Hand-cut fries with spicy Sriracha ketchup in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: July 01, 2013 09:57:47 AM
Made some hand-cut fries the other day with some Sriracha ketchup. Got the idea when I went to Whataburger and tried there spicy ketchup. It really was not that spicy, so I decided to make some at home with some Sriracha, now that was spicy!

To make the Sriracha ketchup I added 1 tablespoon of Sriracha sauce to 1 cup of ketchup, stirred and gave it a taste, than went ahead and added a second tablespoon. I also let it set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to let the flavors meld.

To make the fries I decided to make both russet and sweet potato fries, hand cut and baked on my grill (you can also use an oven). Soaking the fries in vinegar water and coating them with a little cornstarch makes them nice and crispy when baked.

I evenly distribute the fries on the parchment paper, making sure none of the fries are touching, and bake at 425F for 20 to 30 minutes (turning the fries once).

The Fries turned out great! Plus the ketchup was nice and spicy.

I have more step-by-step pics and a little story here on my blog.

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10  Grilled Cheese Day! in Recipes and Cooking Tips by txweekendchef on: April 12, 2013 11:11:33 AM
Today (April 12th) is grilled cheese day!

Here is a few tips on making a grilled cheese sandwich.

Grilled cheese tips.

1. It is all about the cheese, so make sure you use plenty of it; 50/50 cheese to bread ratio is ideal. When using that much cheese, I find shredded cheese melts better than slices.

2. Make sure you use a soft cheese like American, cheddar or gruyere. Hard cheeses don't melt easily and should be avoided for grilled cheese sandwiches.

3. Thick slices of bread. It is common practice to press a grilled cheese sandwich with a spatula while grilling (you have to make sure everything sticks together), so use thick slices of bread -- unless of course you want a really thin sandwich. I find that good ol' Texas Toast works great.

4. Use a well-seasoned cast iron pan. It browns the bread better. If your pan is not well seasoned, use a non-stick pan instead.

5. Butter the bread and not the pan. This gives you an even distribution of butter on the bread when grilling. Just make sure the butter is at room temperature for easy spreading, then butter one side of the sandwich and put that side down in the pan. Press sandwich with spatula, then butter the side facing up (if you butter the top side before pressing, the top piece of bread tends to stick to the spatula).

6. The thicker the sandwich, the lower the heat when grilling. Medium high heat is good, but if your sandwich is extra thick, use medium heat. That will give you a little extra time to melt the cheese without burning the bread. You can also cover the sandwich while grilling with a lid or pan to trap the heat and help the melting process.

And here is a few pics of a Bacon & Jalapeno Grilled Cheese Sandwich I made for the occasion.

More pics and a recipe here.
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